SUNBURY — A 1987 graduate of the Mount Carmel Area High School has been tapped to serve as the next Northumberland County Jail warden.
During a special meeting held Friday morning, the prison board approved hiring Tom Reisinger as the new warden. He will begin his duties Monday.
Commissioner Chair Sam Schiccatano said Reisinger will be paid $56,000 per year.
Reisinger said he started his career in law enforcement as a correctional officer at the Northumberland County Jail, in 1994. At that time, the facility was located in Sunbury.
After about one year at the county jail, he took a job with the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Throughout his 25-year career with the federal system, Reisinger worked at prisons in Allenwood and Schuylkill County.
He retired in 2020, with the rank of captain.
"I started felling, after a couple of months, like I had more to give in law enforcement," he said.
Reisinger became a contractor with the federal government, serving as a compliance inspector at prisons which housed inmates being detained by Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) and the Department of Homeland Security.
"The primary function of the compliance inspections that I was doing was geared toward ICE detainees," he said. "The prisons themselves, sometimes housed ICE detainees and regular inmates.
"We inspected everything and made sure everyone was treated fairly," Reisinger continued. "We wanted to make sure they had the same opportunities as every inmate."
He plans to carry lessons learned through those inspections into his position with the Northumberland County Jail.
"All these prisons that I inspected... they were going through the same things, staffing issues," Reisinger said. "They've done a lot of things that worked and didn't work.
"I wrote everything down that worked for these people, in recruiting staff," he continued. "I'd like to integrate these things into Northumberland County."
Reisinger was immediately attracted to the position with the Northumberland County Jail when he learned of the opening.
"This job came open and it's close to home," he said. "I felt I had more to give."
Schiccatano said eight people applied for the warden position. Each candidate was interviewed, with the search committee narrowing the field down to three finalists.
"Because we did have some good candidates, we felt we needed to move forward as fast as we could," Schiccatano said. "Everyone was very happy with Tom's resume."
Schiccatano said the board has authorized Reisinger to begin searching for a new deputy warden, as well as others who will fill leadership positions at the jail.
Reisinger said a sense of "pride and teamwork" exists among employees in the federal system. He hopes to bring that same sense to the staff at the county jail.
"Union and management worked very closely together, to make sure we had a safe and security environment," he said, while speaking of his time in the federal system.
Reisinger said many still think of jail staff as prison guards.
"That's Alcatraz days," he said. "We are corrections officers."
Often times, he said officers must serve in multiple capacities while on duty, including as mental health professionals due to the drug epidemic rocking the nation.
During a March 29 meeting, the prison board accepted the resignation of Bruce Kovach, as warden.
James Smink, a 23-year employee of the jail, was appointed acting warden. Dave McCoy was appointed acting deputy warden.
Three days after that meeting, Smink announced his plans to retire at the end of April.
During a meeting held May 4, the board voted to terminate McCoy's employment. He was charged May 2 after allegedly pointing a loaded handgun at his live-in girlfriend, Tracy Feese.
At the March 29 meeting, a state of emergency was declared at the jail due to declining staff numbers. By declaring the emergency, it was noted during the meeting that the county could apply for assistance to the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PMEA) if needed.
It was reported at the May 4 meeting that the jail had 43 full-time correctional officers.
"We had 10 new hires in the past six weeks or so," Schiccatano said, on Friday. "We did loose a few, also."
He expressed confidence in Reisinger's ability to implement programs in an effort to attract new employees.